“I will give thanks to you , O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing your praise.” (Psalm 138:1 The Book of Common Prayer, p.793).
There are twelve chapters in The Rule of St. Benedict in which Benedict lists what Psalms are to be prayed at the various Offices. He quotes from the Psalms in any number of chapters including the Prologue. In the short Rule of St. Romuald, he writes about the importance of the Psalms for those who observe an Eremitic version of Benedictine Monasticism as Camaldolese. The Desert Mothers and Fathers prayed all 150 Psalms twice a day. The importance of the Psalms in the life of Christians cannot be over emphasized.
When we pray the Psalms, we pray with the entire Church in the past, present and future. Praying the Psalms allows us to open ourselves to the Presence of God. God knows all of our emotions and allows us to offer them and everything about ourselves to God by praying the Psalms while surrendering ourselves to God.
What might it mean to give thanks to God with our whole heart?
When we use the word “heart” in Christian Spirituality, we are talking about the whole of ourselves. To give thanks to God with our whole heart implies holding nothing back. Whatever is good and wonderful we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves. Whatever is in pain, suffering or sadness, we offer in thanksgiving to God with our whole selves. Praying the Psalms is our assurance that whatever is happening within our whole selves, we can turn ourselves over to God who loves us where we are. When we do God draw us closer to God’s Self who walks with us in mystic journey of redemption.
When we pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture) we spend time meditating on a word or sentence that moves us. In his book Thoughts in Solitude Thomas Merton wrote the following words with regards to meditative prayer.
“In meditative prayer, one thinks and speaks not only with his mind and lips, but in a certain sense with his whole being. Prayer is not just a formula of words, or a series of desires springing up in the heart–it is the orientation of our whole body, mind and spirit to God in silence, attention and adoration. All good meditative prayer is a conversion of our entire self to God.” (Shambhala Pocket Classics version 1993, p.44).
Offering our whole selves to God in thanksgiving leads us to contemplation. God who entered into our human nature in Jesus the Word, became one with all our human experiences. Jesus offered every aspect of humanity from joy to excruciating suffering to the very heart of the love of God. When we pray the Psalms and offer our whole hearts to God with all the masks off, our prayer, becomes the prayer of Jesus as God receives with unconditional love all that we have to offer God.
What does giving thanks to God with your whole heart mean for you?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
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